Oops, we’re all still pagans

You are a neuron in the mind of a giant.

James Taylor Foreman

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Months ago, I wrote a Twitter thread about Milton’s Lucifer. It went a bit viral.

God, it made me feel weird and exposed. When I’m getting coffee, walking, talking to a friend… it’s out there. Roaming the earth, infecting people’s heads with my half-baked curiosity.

Although it’s an immaterial sort of thing, it felt very real. Realer than I would’ve thought before it happened (and even have trouble fully recalling now). It was as if a gorilla had moved into my apartment and was always hiding just out of sight — in my laundry room or behind rows of button-ups.

It bothered me so much, I stopped using Twitter.

But, when I saw virality happen to other people, it seemed unremarkable. Routine. Are they quietly being motivated by these same emotional forces? I wonder: Why are we desperately doing this virtual waltz? More accurately phrased, perhaps, what (or who) “possesses” us to play out these motions on social media?

If we’re marionettes, who’s pulling the strings? And are the puppet masters conscious (do they want things)? Do I want to be an actor in their drama?

How do we know what’s conscious?

Erik Hoel, a scientist and one of my favorite writers, wrote an article about the emergence of the possible “consciousness” of collectives like social media.

The egregore passes you by

He and other researchers noticed that your consciousness emerges not through the piecemeal firing of your neurons but more like a patterned “dance.” The pattern produces your consciousness, not the parts. All of the various things that you’re made of wiggle together at the right tempo to produce something that feels like to be “you.” (I’m saying “you” to invite you, reading this here and now, to notice that being “you” indeed feels like something).

Here’s the fun part: there is no reason to assume consciousness only exists in one skull at a time.

People in a concert, for example, have synced brainwaves. Heart beats and sweaty palms, all in perfect rhythm. Researchers measure it all the time — not fringe science. Just like the interaction of…

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James Taylor Foreman

Essays bridging mythic meaning and the modern world. Click here to have them appear in your inbox some Saturday mornings --> https://www.taylorforeman.com/